Saturday, 8 July 2017

Economic Growth In Africa Through Technology

To be more specific, this article is about 
enhancing economic growth through having people use technology that is mostly derived from, or related to, the internet.

I hope this article will help you, if you are a young African, to become a more pro-active and progressive user of the internet. 
In other words, I want you to finish reading this article and decide that you would drastically reduce the amount of time that you spend on Facebook idolizing Leo Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo. Also that you would curb the amount of time you spend playing games on your phone, or creating and forwarding unconfirmed information on Whatsapp.

Instead, I need you to think seriously about HOW you can use your devices (your smart phones, your tablets and your laptops) as vehicles that move you faster towards achieving your goals in life.

As a matter of fact, for those of you who know, in your hearts, that you have not set any real goals yet; using your devices properly could actually help you to discover what your goals should be, and continuously help you to refine those goals.


Let Us Begin

So the natural question that I would expect from you now is for you to ask me, "How?" 

"How can I use my smartphone or my laptop to reach my goals, or to set goals for myself?"


Information Is​ Power:


Answering questions like this one is exactly why Digital Africa was created. So stay with us (follow this blog) as I attempt the answer:


Enhance!

It was actually my friend and favorite blogger, Joy Isa, that asked me to write this article to "change the perceptions of Nigerian youth about the value of digital networking", as she wrote, in a Hangouts' message. 

She confessed that I had successfully changed her mind about the Web, and that I had convinced her that there was some value in networking online. 

I had actually gotten her to join Google+, and she has been trying since then to be more active on that platform. 
She started her blog, she joined a few G+ communities for bloggers and writers, and she has even overcome some of her online shyness by joining in a few conversations with strangers on the g+ platform - Of which, most of them connect from many different parts of the world.

But, clearly, with this question, she is still not sure of the value in all of this.
So my post here will try to re-address my claims again. But this time I want everyone of you to pay attention.


The Effect Of The Network

In my opinion, the greatest value that the internet brought to us is the ability to communicate with anybody in the world, anywhere in the world, and at anytime of the day.

Seriously, think about it for a few minutes.


I suspect that your first reaction might be to think that the telephone did this quite well before the internet came, right?
Yes indeed it did. However, the internet adds a few things to the communication mix that the telephone never could:


When I was a child, I frequently escaped into my imagination, wondering what it was like for children of my age living in distant places, like.....New York, Timbuktu, London, Buenos Aries, and.......Rome.
I always think about Rome. Both Ancient and modern.

I always wonder what the children of those times and places wondered about. 

Anyway, by communicating with different souls around the world through text, I have seen that gap closed tremendously. I can now have a conversation with a peer in Amsterdam or Gisenyi. And I don't need to already have their phone number to do so.  Think about that as well....

1) The ability to exchange ideas with people from distant lands that you never heard of before, but are attracted to the same topics that you are. Tribes built around Interests or Ideas - not Race or Language.

By the way, I haven't even mentioned the power of Skype or Google Hangouts yet. 

2) The ability to instantly discover information from heterogeneous sources. By using search engines you can find various sources of the same information from all over the world. (example, when I was studying at the University Of Lagos, doing a class assignment to write essays on the Agenda Setting Theory of mass communication, I basically consumed and wrote from material that I found through Google; which were mostly student notes posted online by students from Stanford and other American universities.) 

3) The ability to instantly consume curated information that is often contextual. Go to the Google Plus Semantic Web community to find some of the most timely information on the evolving Semantic Web, or to the one about Semantic Search Marketing specifically. 

I found my passion for the Semantic Web because I discovered the Semantic Web. I discovered the Semantic Web through my network on Google+: Teodora Petkova, Kingsley Idehen and David Amerland. I found these and other awesome people because I opted to spend time engaging with strangers on the social platform.

I have also extended my network well beyond SEO and the Semantic Web. I have also grown a large network of "friends" in the Renewable Energy world. We come together to share the latest information about Solar Energy, Electric Vehicles and smart energy grids.

My being passionate about those topics now makes me perhaps more easily teachable on the knowledge that pertains to those fields, hence more likely than the average man, to find a career in any of them. 

You couldn't pick up your phone and talk to just anyone you thought about talking to. You had to have someone give you their phone number first.
But now you can mention the President of the US in a tweet, and if your message strokes his ego well enough, he could respond or retweet your tweet. He likes to do that. 

You couldn't pick up your phone and call an astronaut for information about mundane tasks that they do while in space. Today, you can follow Samantha Cristoforetti on Google+ and literally keep up with her minute-by-minute activities on the international space station.
And submit your questions in with a chance to read her reply.
All you need is to think of a problem today, and you can instantly find a solution to it! Well, at least a tentative solution. 
Chances are, somebody somewhere else in the world had already thought of solving that problem, and has also shared how they solved it in a blog - or through a social media post that can be discovered through a Google search.


But unfortunately, many of us are seriously underrating the gravity of these things. And that is why we do not really take advantage of them the way we should.


My Networks My Journey

When I began my current journey, I had this strong desire to "get to the future" before most people around the world did. The plan was to quickly plant my feet firmly within a future industry that had a massive potential globally, but was not yet competitive in Nigeria. 
I had been introduced to digital print marketing by my friend, and I quickly saw that this printing press was capable of creating an entirely new kind of print consumers and a new market.  

I wrapped my soul with zeal and flung myself at this opportunity, because I knew that if things did not work out there, digital printing was not far from digital marketing (which I had already started flirting with at the time).
So after several years of very sluggish growth in the digital printing world, Kodak sent an Italian Nexpress business developer to give us presentations on how to create a market for the Nexpress. 

I learnt a ton on that occassion, but most of all, the Italian dude from Kodak (Salvatore Massaro) mentioned two words that would change my life:
"SEO" and "Google Plus".
I became flat-out ravenous for all the information I could find on SEO (i.e. Search Engine Optimization), while I constantly followed the conversations of the most popular SEO consultants that were on Google Plus.

My zeal was able to push me to throw away all reservations and my bashfulness, and work myself into the conversations of these experts of SEO. I also noticed that Salvatore Massaro himself was inactive on Google Plus. But this gave me more of an incentive to strive to be more active on it. I learnt the value of creating and building and moderating communities. I also become more thoughtful about conversations on social media. I learnt from the influencers on G+ and their tribes, that the conversations on that platform were often saturated with much more information in them than anywhere else. 

As time went on, I was eventually able to get the attention of the most legendary name in SEO: One of the pioneers of the craft! He is the Black Knight: Sir Ammon Johns.
Networking with Ammon Johns got me to connect with many other awesome people from the digital marketing world. These connections extended my reach into the Semantic Web 


The value of this was that I always had easy access to the very latest information in my chosen industry.
The high level of know-how possessed by these people I was now keeping company (keeping virtual company that is) with, boosted my own ability to learn and understand how things worked on the world wide web.

I cannot stress how much you can potentially gain from merely maintaining conversation with the right people (on the right topics) on Google Plus. And I had never found this type of richness from LinkedIn or Facebook.  
   

Marketing is mostly research, research and more research.
A lot of people know that they can do some very powerful research on Google search these days. The kind of research that was not achievable by paying lots of money to research consultancies years ago.

However, many people still do not know how to use free Google search's Advanced Features. Even less know about using search operator functions.
But my eyes were opened to these wonderful things and more because I followed (and actively interacted with) the right people on the right social network.  


Technology Advances Everything
At the time I joined Google Plus, I was only interested in learning SEO and building a career in digital marketing.
However, five years down the line, today, I have been earning from SEO jobs, but I am also more than competent with AdWords, with Google Analytics, Social Media Marketing and strategy, and content marketing.

I am now working in the renewable energy industry in California, mostly due to the quality of information that I consumed on Googleplus, through my friends in the Forward Initiative League and a few others.
The way things are going, I could possibly end up focusing on digital marketing that specializes in the renewable energy industry.  


But meanwhile, along the way, I also learned to write some Semantic Web code (i.e. JSON-LD and RDFa), I looked into Bitcoin, I fell in love with smart cities - and I know where I can easily fit into that. 

Bottom line, once you start to obey your thirst for information, it only gets bigger and bigger. And the result is that you get more and more powerful. Your goals become clearer. You know you can be ambitious for something that is.....you!

And yet, all it takes is using your smartphone the right way. Start today. All it could take to start is one search on Google.

For me, it started when I searched "How does SEO work?" on my laptop. It ended up being a marketing concept that had a strong connection to the course that I studied at the University of Lagos (i.e. Mass Communication).
However, in your case, you might as well do the search already "guiding" yourself in line with what you are currently studying in school, or whatsover it is that you love to do, and could earn a living from doing.

If you need help in doing this, and will be willing to tell me what your current interests or studies are so that I can help you start the searches that can lead you to finding your goals, then reach out to me on my Africa Rising Collection. Find it here.


Finally, I would advice you to follow this blog because I will be posting more updates that will be very useful to anyone who has interest in technology, and especially any African who has interest in technology.

When more and more people set goals and pursue them, this is what leads to all growth. Not just economic growth. In my opinion.



Friday, 2 June 2017

Paris Agreement Exit: Who Do You Think Is Smarter?

Hey guys, I am still angry about yesterday's news. 

If you know me very well, and you follow some of my articles and posts on social media, then you would know what got me angry. *cough* #ParisAgreement Exit. *cough* Trump sucks.

Anyway, to cool off, I thought I would do some research.
Yes. That is how I relax.
By doing research (the life of a Google power user).


Anyway, please let me know what you think about Trump's decision to exit the Paris Agreement? 

Kindly read these tweets from these CEOs of some of the biggest companies in the USA, then consider the decision of the King of Reality TV and Twitter, and tell me which camp is wiser....



















There were many others.


Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Car Electronics

With this quick article, I hope to challenge and encourage as many young Africans as possible to consider pursuing careers in the field of electronics, and in its sub-field of car electronics in particular. I also hope that this might somehow get to some African leaders who are in the position to affect policies that encourage these youngsters in those pursuits.

My desire is that our beautiful continent begins to produce more and more young engineers that can help us to reduce our over-dependence on the rest of the world (and especially Asia) for electronic equipment and appliances.

The Curious Social Scientist

I know that I am just a bloody social scientist, and I hated science subjects back in school. So what could I possibly know about electronics?

Well, it turns out, I have somehow gotten really interested in many areas of technology and science these days. It really started with my infatuation with the Semantic Web, then solar energy and future battery technology (which I call #StoredSun). So when I first learned about electric cars needing advanced batteries, I became hooked on the technology behind those as well.


Electronics For The Lay Man

So my current understanding is that electronics is an offspring of both Electrical Engineering, and the science of Physics.  
In electronics, engineers are mainly building devices that exploit and manipulate the power of electricity and electric charges. Please if you have an even simpler definition that even the dumbest social scientist or artist can understand, I would love it if you shared that definition in the comments below. Thank you.

So, when you look into my definition (hopefully it is correct), you can see that the idea is to competently understand how electricity affects various objects so that we can make those objects work for us in a useful and safe way. The more engineers learn about the nature of electricity and the way it affects physical objects, the better they can build gadgets that make our lives easier.



Africa & Electronics


But if these things can be learned, then why aren't we learning them? Or why is the enabling environment seemingly non-existent in most of the African continent? What is our private sector waiting for? Why do our governments not care about stimulating such interests?

There are so many areas where the study and practice of electronics can be applied to generate wealth for our people. Among these are areas such as manufacture of mobile phones, computers, Ultra HD television sets, digital media players, most hospital equipment, and even home appliances like washing machines and microwave ovens.

I am not talking about being proud of watching the news and hearing a report about one solitary African that built one electronic device. Or of hearing of one computer that was completely manufactured in one African country.
No.


Those are good news indeed. But what we want is an entire burgeoning industry.


However, I am going to focus on one particular area that I am certain is going to present a huge opportunity for Africans who will eventually go into this field:
I am talking about car electronics.


Electronics In Cars And Electronic Cars


Statista estimates that there are approximately 1.2 billion cars and commercial vehicles in use around the world today. Practically all of these cars have some form of electronic system or another at work within them.
In fact, as the automobile industry has matured, we have seen that cars are being built with electronic systems increasingly replacing the mechanical systems within them.


By these mechanical systems being replaced, I am referring to most of the cars that we see on our roads, and are typically built with an internal combustion engine.
In these ICE cars, the engine runs by burning a mixture of air and fuel to produce the thrust of the car.
Engineers achieve this by using techniques from smaller divisions of mechanics like Fluid Mechanics, Dynamics and Kinematics (i.e. the area of mechanics that deals with gears and gear boxes)

But like I said already, a lot of these systems are either being replaced by electronic systems, or being enhanced by mixing in electronics with the mechanical aspects.


Car Electronics

Car Electronics range from transmission ( gear shifting) electronics to things like car entertainment systems and electronic braking systems.
Also take note of the current hype around electronic intelligent parking systems and self-driving systems in cars these days.

And with other technologies coming in from the computer and internet world, like artificial intelligence and machine learning, it is easy to see the direction in which the automobile industry is moving.
Things are getting more and more electronic than ever before.

A typical electronic car stereo in a modern car. Image courtesy of https://www.clublexus.com/forums/ct-200h-model-2011-present/656439-loving-the-car-stereo.html
What used to only have its place in the car's stereo system, now features in other parts like seats, the steering, the transmission, the air bag, the doors, even the glass.


Electronic devices first started to appear in the insides of cars, but eventually started to spread outward to underneath the hood, and who knows where else tomorrow. Every component in the future automobile could potentially be completely electronic. 

Therefore if you are young engineering and science student in Africa today, I would strongly encourage you to seriously look into this area as a major goal before, during, and after you even get into the university or before you choose your major.


It is good to consider the number of cars currently in use around the world, as mentioned above. Then consider that this number is expected to increase tremendously as populations continue to grow in third world countries, and the size of their economies grow likewise. But also because more people around the world get educated, gain global access and exposure through the world wide web, and become more sophisticated in their needs as standards of living continue upwards.


Electric Cars

Therefore as cars and buses and trucks have evolved over the years, a lot of the working parts within them have steadily evolved into electronic parts.
But what is more profound is the fact that the actual engines of the cars themselves are now becoming completely electric.
Tesla Model S. Full Electric Vehicle. Seen here plugged into its charging kit that easily works with any AC outlet in your home, office or anywhere. Photo courtesy of Tesla.com 

Many of these electric powered cars today still use a combination of electric and mechanical drive trains - aptly called Hybrid cars.
Yet, recent popular participants like the Nissan Leaf and Tesla cars have come out as purely electric.
The success of Nissan's Leaf, and the huge success of the Tesla brand is pushing automobile manufacturers to look in that direction for the future.


One of the trends that is driving this paradigm shift is the hybrid car phenomenon I already mentioned above.

There are indeed already many hybrid cars in Europe and America that use a combination of an internal combustion engine as well as electric power from a large battery to propel the car and economize fuel. These hybrids have steadily evolved, and modern hybrids are getting better and better at minimizing the need for fuel.
But this evolution is progressive.


From HEV to PHEV to EV

Once upon a time, HEVs or Hybrid Electric Vehicles simply used a large battery that is charged by the power produced by the ICE (internal combustion Engine) engine, and then gives back that power to the car to help reduce the car’s reliance on fuel, and save lots of money on fuel costs.


The next phase saw Plug-In Electric Vehicles or PHEVs, which used larger batteries, and charged these batteries BOTH with power from the ICE engine, and also through charging cables that bring in power from any electric source including the AC outlet of your home.

PHEVs are usually more energy efficient than HEVs. Depending on how far the car is being driven, most PHEVs will go many miles without needing to take power from their ICE engines or burn any fuel.
As a matter of fact, the logic behind a PHEV is that the fuel-based engine should only serve as a backup.
Chevrolet's Volt. A plug-in hybrid electric vehicle (or PHEV). Image curtesy of http://www.hybridcars.com/2017-chevy-volt-will-offer-adaptive-cruise-control/ 

These (PHEVs) in my opinion, are the critical bridge to the future. It is why many are convinced that it is only a matter of time that fuel consuming cars will become completely impractical and unappealing to the consumer.


You can watch an ongoing experiment of this PHEV -> EV shift in the following example:

General Motors of America, who had first built the successful Chevrolet Volt (a PHEV), are going a step further with a new all-electric car they call the Bolt (a full-EV car).
The success and popularity of the Volt (which was designed by a Nigerian Jelani Aliyu) is expected to boost the transition of Hybrid electric vehicles (or HEV) into Plug-In Electric Hybrid Vehicles (or PHEV).

So the progression looks like this:
ICE -> HEV -> PHEV -> EV
As you move from left to right, there is a decreasing reliance on fuel, and a greater reliance on plugging into electricity.
But when you think about the ease and comfort of charging your phones and laptops at home or at work, then it begins to become clearer that this progression is almost certainly going to happen.
The question is, "how soon"?

Perhaps the answer is in the fact that there is this new and unprecedented and clearly authentic appeal for electric cars (thanks mostly to Tesla Motors). Plus the fact that battery technology is developing at a fast pace, and batteries are growing in their ability to pack more and more power into smaller spaces, while working on increasing their life-cycles and charging speeds.
Also the fact that self-driving cars are on the horizon (thanks to Tesla, Google, Apple and Uber) and EV technology seems to be the the only suitable match for them.
These scenarios all collaborate to speed up the eventual extinction of gasoline powered cars. So my answer would be, "sooner than you think".

So my question would be; at what point should Africa join this revolution?

Now, for sure!

We need to encourage our kids to acquire skills in electrical engineering, in electronics as a whole, and in car electronics in particular.
There are immediate gains that could come from developing electronic systems and devices within existing ICE cars. But there are even huger rewards that will come from taking part in building the PHEVs and full electric cars (EVs) of the near future.

We need African governments to aggressively incentivize engineering and technology studies to make this happen as quickly as possible. To produce Africans like Jelani Aliyu. a new breed of young Africans that will aspire to not only do auto design, but also electric powertrain engineering and battery charging innovations.

I honestly believe that every time a major technological revolution is about to occur, it potentially gives those who were previously disadvantaged a chance to close the gap a little.
The transition to the new paradigm is expected to prove quite painful for incumbent big car manufacturers like Toyota, Mercedes, Ford, etc.
Therefore we, Africa, who had not been serious participants in then old automotive shindigs, should gleefully march into the new one.
Right?

Please, let us think hard about this!


Conclusion

Finally, if you are a frequent reader of my future-oriented articles here on Digital Africa, you may have noticed that I am a huge fan of Tesla Motors.
Here is an article from the CEO of Tesla that I think may inspire you the way it has inspired an old social scientist like me to become an enthusiastic advocate of science and technology. (>>> see that short article here <<<)
I wrote an article on LinkedIn about Elon Musk that reveals some depth of the vertically integrated empire he is building. (>>> See that one here <<<)

Also if you are a frequent reader of many of my future oriented articles here on Digital Africa, you would quickly understand that I am trying to get you to prepare yourself or your children and grand children for such a time.
Our student engineers should understand the kind of opportunity that could easily await them in this brave new world of electronic devices and electronic transportation systems, if only they make the right choices today.
But also, if we and our leaders make the right choices for them!

Friends, the internet hasn't just changed the world. It is changing it even more still.
And not so many are paying attention to these current changes. There is much to learn, but there is indeed huge incentive for us to learn it. Please let us push our leaders in this direction because whatever wealth we may have from natural resources (like oil) is only a shadow of the past.
Think about it.

Wednesday, 14 December 2016

The African Smart City

“Smart people, places, communities, businesses and governments work together to use the modern technologies that are changing our world to make it fairer and more sustainable in the process, giving everyone a better chance of a longer, healthier, happier and more fulfilling life.”
- Rick Robinson

Now Is The Time For Africa To Join The Smart Cities Revolution!


Which of these future scenarios would you prefer?

A) One future where the super rich politicians in the highest levels of government in Nigeria are chauffeured around in luxury cars that drive themselves while a robot nanny babysits their children at home?

Or B) Would you prefer a future where even the poorest people in Mushin (rugged town within Lagos, Nigeria) enjoy the most comfortable air-conditioned public transport buses that run, not on petrol or diesel, but run mostly on the energy gotten from the refuse that is collected day to day in that very town?

I would go for the second scenario. 

But it is not like I have something against robots or self-driving cars. Nor do I have anything against the super-rich merely for being rich (I hate the kleptomaniac politicians in Nigeria though). 

It is because I agree with the Smart Cities ideology that technology should improve the quality of life for all people.


Smart Cities Are About People

Along with renewable energy and storage, with the Semantic Web, and with future farming that is powered by data and a spirited African youth; the concept of building smarter cities has become one of the topics I am most interested in. 

I strongly believe that African political and business leaders should be incentivizing and driving policies and trends around these and other topics in transformative technology. 

And as usual, in the spirit of Africa Rising, I am to help stimulate the discussion for smart cities in Nigeria and all around Africa. This indeed falls into the mission of those of us who care about a Digital Africa - as the process of planning and implementing smart city projects would certainly cause tremendous increase in employment, skill acquisition and prosperity for the African youth. 

YESSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

But first, we must understand the reality and the prevalence of the problem. I am most certainly not about talking of a solution that seeks a problem to solve here.


Defining The Problem: 

Urbanization

Man can control how he plans a city. But man cannot yet control how people migrate from rural areas into any city they chose to migrate to.

When urbanization gets out of control, no matter how well the city was planned, bad things start happening.
Slums develop. Then crime. Costs of housing, transportation, and food go up. Collection and management of refuse (or waste) gets increasingly difficult. It's all pretty bad.

It would be wonderful if we could build cities with infrastructure that can be functionally "elastic" enough to stretch to fit the challenges of urbanization, wouldn't it?


Defining The Solution: 

Smarter Cities

A Smart City is planned primarily to improve the quality of life of the citizens that will dwell in it. It is judged to be "smart" because it relies on the use of digital technology to bring about such life's qualities.

Each smart city should share this common objective, yet different smart city projects would be planned and implemented differently from one another.
However, most smart city projects commonly focus on 5 main areas:

Transport, Waste Management, Energy, Food and Water Supply.

I should also mention that so far, I haven't come across any smart city project that doesn't assume that a smarter city must be a green city (i.e. powered primarily by renewable energy). I would imagine that climate change skeptics may not be quite as big on that particular pre-requisite of smart cities though.

Smart City Should Convert Refuse To Energy

Mitchell Joachim, an architect at Terraform One, considers the most crucial technological piece for a smart city to be a central system for converting waste (or refuse) to energy.

When you really think about this (especially those of us who live in Lagos, Nigeria), that would be a fantastic solution to have at the heart of our cities. We would be killing two really really ugly birds with one stone. 




Anyway, this "spirit" of getting power out of waste, or of bringing good things out of not-so-good things, is what smart cities are ultimately about.

Cheong koon Hean compares a smart city (or town) to a human body. She describes the buildings where activities take place to muscles, the roads to the veins and arteries which move traffic (like blood) from building to building. She also compares trees and parks to the human lungs which help to cleanse the air and give oxygen.  

Mrs Cheong then compares the sensor layer of a data-driven intelligence system to the five senses of the human body, which works with our central nervous system and brain by providing information about what happens in the environment so the human being can learn how to adapt.

Then there is Dr Rick Robinson (The Urban Technologist)


The Social Scientist Not Forgotten


I first got interested in the topic of smart cities through my friend, an architect and a lecturer at the University of Lagos, David Adio-Moses. Yet, it was reading Dr Robinson's blog that my eyes truly opened to the necessity of the idea.
This article from Robinson's blog could open your eyes as well. 

It is possible, perhaps, that the main reason why I like Dr Robinson's guide to smart cities so much is because of his regard for social scientists (of which I myself am a natural progeny).
Indeed, like the phenomenal professor and father of artificial intelligence's Deep Learning, Geoffrey Hinton, Robinson favours a world where social scientists take significant roles in the advancement of our species.   


So in conclusion, we are now no longer indifferent; in that we realize that the problems that come with urbanization are real. We also know that there can be solutions that can help our cities adapt and learn how to tame these problems of urbanization. 

It all requires lots of planning and smart technology to get on top of these problems. And the best way to begin this planning and to learn to use this technology properly is to join the global smart cities conversations. 

I will be writing more about smart cities in the future. I will also be thinking of ways in which the technologies that I am interested in, like the Blockchain and the Semantic Web can help solve some of these problems. 

Thanks for reading. 
Please offer your contributions to this topic below. Also link up with me on LinkedIn or on Twitter.
You already know where to find me on GooglePlus.

I leave you with this video for more on smart cities.